Posts Tagged ‘book clubs’

Book Clubbing

June 12, 2008

Have you ever been a member of a book club? How did your group choose (or, if you haven’t been, what do you think is the best way to choose) the next book and who would lead discussion?

Do you feel more or less likely to appreciate books if you are obliged to read them for book groups rather than choosing them of your own free will? Does knowing they are going to be read as part of a group affect the reading experience?

I am a part of a unique book club that is actually a book/wine club. We discuss first the wine, then the book. I’ve talked about the book club here and here. We only pick our books one month out because evidently we aren’t nearly as organized as a bunch of the other book clubs out there. Basically people just come with suggestions of things they want to read or have recently read and would like to discuss. One time I even went through my wishlist of books and tagged some of them ‘bc rec‘ (book club recommendation) so I would buy something I already wanted anyway, instead of getting something completely different. Our book club founder Kelly usually at least starts off our discussion, but (again) we aren’t one of those organized book clubs. We don’t have a list of questions or anything, we just start talking; normally that could be a problem, but not after tasting 6 different bottles of wine!

I am generally able to go into my book club books with an open mind so that my level of appreciation doesn’t differ one way or the other depending on whether or not a book is for book club. I’ve even read (and loved) some books I probably wouldn’t have picked up otherwise, like “The Glass Castle” and “Middlesex“. I will admit, though, that there were a couple of times that I wasn’t going to be able to make it to book club and I was glad, because I had no intention of reading the chosen book. The only thing that changes about a book for book club, is that it will be finished by a certain time. It will not be put off to read ARCs or for theme reads, because it will be complete by the time book club night rolls around again.

Sunday Salon – Rolling Along

June 1, 2008

It is an absolutely gorgeous day here outside of Chicago.  This is quite lucky, as our church met outside this morning.  We don’t have our own building yet and generally meet in a local high school.  However, this weekend said high school is having their graduation, so instead we met at the gazebo in the little town center.  Brian and I decided that today would be a good day to try to ride our bikes down to the service.  It was between 30 and 45 minutes down there, we had church, everyone hung out for a bit on the lawn, Brian and I rode up to lunch and sat outdoors, rode over to the bike shop to pick up more accessories, and finally rode home (found short cut that only took just over 20 minutes).  Suffice as to say, I’m a bit sunburned and have not gotten a lot of reading done.

This week was a book club week for me, which are always fun.  Our book this month was “Middlesex” by Jeffrey Eugenides.  Those of us who read it really quite enjoyed it (you can see my review here).  Our wine for the night was Albarino which is a white from Spain.  I must say, I thought better of the book than of the wine.  Of course, I’m more of a red wine girl.  If it is too hot for red wine, I’d generally prefer a mojito or a daquiri to a glass of white wine.  It was a good time overall, however.  We aren’t able to meet in June, so we’re going to read “The Double Bind” together with “The Great Gatsby” and discuss them both in July. 

The other good thing about book club is the extra time it gives me.  I work in Chicago, and all of the girls in my book/wine club actually live in the city, as I used to do.  Brian and I live a way out in the Chicago suburbs.  If I were to drive home after work and before book club, I’d have just enough time to get comfortable enough that I would never want to leave again.  So instead, I generally either babysit for a friend so she can go out, or I sit at my office when everyone’s gone and just read.  This month was a ‘just read’ sort of month.  I sat at my desk for about three hours and just read.  I finished up “Have I got a Guy for You” (review here) and started a “The Leper Compound,” which was sent to me by Literary Ventures Fund.  I’m also working on an ARC of “Alive in Necropolis,” which is not at all the sort of book I would normally read, but I am enjoying it so far.  the plot has something to do with vengeful ghosts, although that hasn’t become a huge part of the action yet. 

Well, Saloners, I’m off to do some work around the house so I can do some more reading tonight!  Make sure to check out my big contest, there are only a couple more days to enter.  I will likely announce winners either Tuesday or Wednesday.  You can win ANY book I have reviewed so far. 

“In Praise of Book Clubs”

May 21, 2008

Post 83:

I am the guest post today in LisaM’s series “In Praise of Book Clubs” over at Books on the Brain.  Go on over and check it out!

A Year Without “Made in China” – book review

April 27, 2008

Year Without Journalist Sara Bongiorni is one of those people who habitually checks the bottom of everything that she buys to the “made in” country of origin, primarily just for curiosity’s sake.  One Christmas, after stepping on a sharp, plastic, “made in China” toy, Bongiorni reflects on just how many of the Christmas goodies in her house seemed to say “made in China” on the bottom. After tallying them up and becoming overwhelmed at China’s predominance in her house, Bongiorni decides that her New Year’s resolution will be that next year shall be, “A Year Without ‘Made in China'”.

A Year Without ‘Made in China’” is essentially Bongiorni’s memoir of her year and her struggles keeping faithful to her China boycott.  She made the decision to boycott not out of any deep-seeded hatred of China, or even because of safety or human rights concerns, but simply to see if it could be done.  The verdict: yes, sort of, but with great difficulty.  Difficulties included “the weakest link” (her husband); the fact that certain components of lamps are not made at ALL in the U.S., but only in China; and the all-consuming desire of a four year old boy for a light up plastic sword. 

Although slightly less funny, this book was written in a similar style to A.J. Jacobs’ “The Know It All,” which chronicles his quest to read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica in a year.  Both are books that are very much in the author’s head, their internal narrative as they attempt to do what others around them think impossible, or just plain stupid. 

This was my book club book for this month.  While I enjoyed it fairly well, perhaps because of my very enjoyable previous experience in this style with “The Know It All,” it seemed that the rest of my book club felt fairly ambivalent about it.  They very much enjoyed the concept, but had a hard time being so totally in Bongiorni’s head, finding her a bit neurotic.  She was a bit neurotic, I would agree, but I think that may be a result of trying to convince a four year old that he can wait an entire year for a light up sword.  She did drive me slightly crazy with her children.  She is far too susceptible to the guilt a four year old can dish out when he wants something.  To answer your question, Sara, no, your child is NOT “suffering” because he wasn’t allowed to buy a purple plastic pumpkin. Be his mom, not his friend. 

This book doesn’t explore the intricacies of globalization, but if you want to know how hard it would be to stop buying things from China, pick this up when it comes in paperback or get it from the library, and give it a read. 

Buy this book on Amazon: A Year Without “Made in China”: One Family’s True Life Adventure in the Global Economy


April 17, 2008

I have started to get a fair number of books that need to be read (and usually reviewed) at or by a certain time. I’m currently on my 4th consecutive win of Early Reviewer books, I’m beginning reviewing on ReaderViews, I’m taking part in a few theme reads on LibraryThing, I’m getting an ARC from the Barnes and Nobles First Look Book Club, I keep trying to receive Harper Collins First Look books, I’m part of a blog tour, and I’ve got my book club.

For each of these things (and hopefully more in the future!) there is some sort of deadline. Obviously I’m not going to be kicked out of book club or the theme reads if my book isn’t done on time, but not finishing and reviewing/discussing the other books on time would not be conducive to receiving more books.

I was afraid that I was just going to simply forget to read a book in its allotted time, so I’ve decided to schedule out (some of) my TBR time with the books that need to be read at a certain time, using the handy-dandy Google Calendar. The link to my TBR Calendar can also be found on the right-hand side of my page under “Devourer’s Stuff”. As long as I’m doing this, I might as well include the other books I read that didn’t HAVE to be read, so I will add other books as I read them and edit what I read to reflect the correct dates. Books that ‘had’ to be read will be indicated with asterisks.

Feel free to check out my calendar!

Water for Elephants – Book Review

March 29, 2008

Water for Elephants book coverWater For Elephants by Sarah Gruen is the story of an old man in a nursing home remembering his life as a young man living in the United States during the Great Depression.  His life seems secure, he is studying to be a veterinarian at an Ivy league school and has plans to return home and join his father’s business.  Jacob’s world is turned upside down when his parents are killed in a car accident and he discovers that they have no money: his father has been taking payment by goods and services for years, because he cannot bear to see an animal suffer.

Mere hours from graduation, Jacob cannot muster the strength to take his final exam.  Not knowing where to go, Jacob jumps a train that turns out to be the Benzini Brothers Circus.  From there he gets involved with Marlena, Rosie, August, Kinko, Camel, and the rest of the circus. 

The nursing home scenes were very touching, I really got emotionally involved with Jacob, especially so in these scenes where is he trying to simply continue to live his life and felt he was being thwarted, thus his need to retreat into the past.  The fact that he was by and large a good man made soem of his cowardly decisions that much more difficult, but overall you could feel that he was trying to do the right thing. 

Other than August and Uncle Al and a couple of their henchmen, all of Gruen’s characters were flawed yet likeable, very human.  The only thing that ruined the book for me was the statement that Gruen made that the backbone of her story is the biblical story of Jacob.  The example that is cited in the questions in the back of the book is that both Jacobs at one point lay on their backs with their head on a stone.  Wow, great, they were both guys too!  And their names were both Jacob!  I’m sorry, but I just don’t see it, other than perhaps some very grand, very overarching themes.

As I mentioned before, this was our book for book club, which was held last night.  My book club LOVED this book.  We started talking about it before everyone got there because we just could not wait.  We even started talking about it before the wine tasting, which NEVER happens.  We had a grand old time discussing it, too, after the wine tasting (we were trying Tempranillos, by the way). 

Buy this book on Amazon: Water for Elephants: A Novel

330 pages in 20 hours

March 19, 2008

Well, rantsandreads wasn’t kidding when she told me that Water for Elephants was a fast read. I started it around 9ish last night and finished it this afternoon. I am going to write a review tonight or, more likely, tomorrow, but I am going to refrain from publishing it for about a week. I want to wait until I discuss the book at book club and add whatever thoughts and discussion points come from that. You can expect the review March 29th, sometime.

Now there is no book that I am reading, and won’t be until sometime after I make dinner tonight, maybe 7:30 or even 8 by the time I get a chance to grab one.  I don’t even know what I’m reading next!  This is a slightly nerve-wracking thing for me.  I nearly grabbed another book to bring to work with me today, but who knew I’d get through 230 pages of Water for Elephants while here?

Book Clubs

February 29, 2008

I am very excited, because tonight I am going to a meeting of my book club. It is perhaps one of the most fun book clubs around. Instead of being purely a book club, it is a book and wine club. A friend of mine and her roommate decided to start this one year ago. They each invited some friends, and asked them to invite some friends, figuring this was a way for everyone to meet some new girlfriends and have fun and learn a little something.

We start the night with the wine (it gets us nice and talkative for the book discussion, plus this way people can sober up during the book discussion, so everyone can get home safely). Each month we do a different variety of wine, this month is Pinot Noir. Everyone brings a different bottle of the wine of the month. We read about the wine The Everything Wine Book and Wine for Dummies and similar books, then we pour small tastes of each wine and compare and discuss the wines. We have learned lots of great stuff. For example: Pinot Grigio has been quite over-planted, but is still very good when it is from Northern Italy, look for Pinot Grigio labeled ‘Friuli’.

Once we thoroughly understand our wine, we get on to the book. We tend to talk mostly about the parts of the book that really struck us, and occasionally get into character motivations and other such things. Occasionally, like with The Memory Keeper’s Daughter, the conversations end up getting very deep and personal. You have GOT to love books, outside of therapy, why else would people who really don’t know each other that well, share personal, sometimes painful things about their lives and families, if it wasn’t brought up by the shared experience of a book? Our book for tonight is Three Cups of Tea, which I have read before but am re-reading. This book is also going to serve as my first non-U.S/Euro-centric book for my Reading Around the World challenge, so look for Pakistan to be lit up soon on my map!